396 Chevy Big Block Specs

by Rob Wagner

Chevrolet developed its big block 396-cubic-inch V8 engine in response to the big engines powering the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and Pontiac GTO. Beginning in 1965, the 396 engines powered Chevelles, Corvettes and El Caminos. Chevy phased out the 396 in 1969.

Early Years

Chevy developed three versions of the 396 in 1965: a four-barrel carburetor model, the Z-16 with a high compression ratio (also produced in 1966) and the L-79, which was only produced for 1965.


The four-barrel carburetor version had a 4.094-inch bore and 3.76-inch stroke. It had a 10.25:1 compression ratio to wield 325 horsepower and 410 ft.-lbs. of torque. The Z-16, produced only for Chevelles, had a high compression ratio of 11:1. With a four-barrel carb, it produced 375 horsepower and 420 ft.-lbs. of torque. The L-79 396 featured 425 horsepower and 415 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Later Years

In 1967, Chevrolet produced two 396 V8s. One generated 350 horsepower with a compression ratio of 10.25:1, and the other was a 375-horsepower engine with an 11:1 compression ratio. In its final year (1969), the 396 received a two-barrel carb and a reduced 9:1 compression ratio, which delivered 265 horsepower.

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.

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